CHENNAI : Arkham Horror has been around for a very long time. Currently, there’s a Third Edition out, as well as a hugely popular card game, and there’s a spin-off scheduled to release next month. We recently revisited the Second Edition, though, and that’s the one we’ll be talking about today.
Arkham Horror puts you and up to seven other players in the role of investigators, snooping around the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts in the 1920s. Although best known as the creator of Cthulhu, HP Lovecraft is a master of otherworldly horror and this game leans upon his mythos from the get-go — one of Lovecraft’s terrible Ancient Ones is waking from its slumber and causing monsters and dimensional gates to spawn in the streets of Arkham, and it’s up to you to work together to close the gates and find the clues you need to prevent the Ancient One from entering the world and turning it into their personal playground.
You won’t be starting with a blank slate, however — each of you will be playing a unique character with unique strengths and weaknesses. You could see the unlikeliest of partnerships, such as the drifter who’s gifted at scrounging around every chance he gets teaming up with the dilettante who has a trust fund. Or the magician whose fake spells are becoming all too real heading into battle alongside a nun wielding a Tommy gun. Like many other cooperative games, Arkham Horror wants to tell you a story and this is where it begins — with Earth’s unlikeliest heroes thrown together to find common cause, while the world crumbles around them.
There’s a strong sense of thematic flavour here — there’s lore hidden around every corner, and often a reference or at least a tip of the hat to some nugget of Lovecraftian literature. However, it’s the encounters where Arkham Horror truly comes alive. You see, after you finish your turn — which will usually consist of trying to find clues, defeating monsters, enlisting the help of Arkham residents or throwing yourself headlong into one of those otherworldly gates — you’ll have an encounter depending on where you are.
Whether you’re in Downtown Arkham or in Another World, you just find the right deck and draw a card. Now, the rules say that you should read it yourself but it’s much, much better if you let one of the others read it to you. The sheer number and variety of things that can happen to you boggles the mind, and it’s so much better when you’re forced to make choices without knowing what lies in store — which, to me, is exactly what a Lovecraft game should feel like.
There isn’t a nutshell big enough to fit Arkham Horror, but this is as close as I can get. It’s a beast of a game — not only will it take anywhere between 2-6 hours, it’ll also take every opportunity to kick you in the teeth during that time. That said, at the end you’ll have these amazing stories about your deeds in Arkham, stories that’ll stay with you long after you put the game away. Arkham Horror is long, fiddly and can be unforgivingly difficult, but that’s just as it should be — saving the world from Cthulhu was never going to be easy, now was it?